In the last year viral, ready-made TikTok challenges have been a boon to musicians trying to promote their newest releases. Thanks to the spark of an enterprising TikTok fan, Erica Banks had the memorable “Buss It Challenge,” while other users turned Megan Thee Stallion’s “Body” choreography into a copycat sensation. Naturally Cardi B’s “WAP” video dance went viral, after a version by choreographer Brian Esperon got popular on TikTok (Cardi retweeted his original video).
Enter J.Lo, who on Sunday celebrated the 20th anniversary of her second album J.Lo. In an Instagram video alongside the nonexistent festivities, she urged fans to join her in a recreation of the music video for “Love Don’t Cost a Thing.” The challenge, it seemed, was to walk down a beach while one undressed and throw any expensive possessions—watches, fitbits, designer glasses—into the ocean or sand. Obviously, a challenge ready-made to broadly appeal to the broke people she extols in the song.
I half-expected her “challenge” to take off, as tabloids and women’s magazines love to gobble stuff like this up. I could already see the headlines: J.Lo WOWS In Stunning “Love Don’t Cost a Thing Challenge”: See Her Body 20 Years Later. I was wrong! In the last 24 hours, Jenny From the Block’s plea to fans has garnered a whopping 230 posts on Instagram. Fifty-seven of them existed prior to JLo’s own post, and of the remaining 173 posts, 58 are reposts of the original by fan accounts. Only 12 people have uploaded their own versions of the actual challenge. Bleak!
Her call to arms has fared slightly better on Twitter, where more than a handful of users have uploaded what look to be original videos. However, the overwhelming majority of tweets note how closely timed her challenge is to the success of the still-ongoing “Buss It Challenge,” as though a fleet of publicists banded together to capitalize off J.Lo’s appearance at the Inauguration last week. But forced virality doesn’t tend to work; the “Buss It Challenge,” for instance, didn’t even come from “Buss It” rapper Erica Banks, as far as anyone knows. The origin of that meme can be traced back to TikTok user @erikadavila120, who made a video on January 1 with the caption, “PLEASE TAG ME. And if this has been done I’m sorry, i just fux wit the song #transition #fyp #newtrend #newdance.”
The original “Buss It Challenge” video is inarguably low quality, just like its many derivatives. Filmed on iPhones, with single camera angles, and maybe one cut at most, they are a testament to TikTok’s unpolished nature. On social media, such challenges are mostly disseminated organically—or by a sophisticated marketing agency hiding its own influence. In contrast, JLo’s video seems to have been produced by a professional camera crew, with multiple shots and interlocking angles, making it feel obviously “forced”—or as the internet at large might see it, “inauthentic,” an attempt to piggyback off a trend to make relevant a 21-year-old song, older than the median age of TikTok users.